Outward-only faith

Date: Tuesday, October 15

ScriptureMatthew 23:23-28

Verse: You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean. (Matthew 23:26)

I once read that you know you are goal-oriented when you add things to your “to-do” list after you have accomplished them then immediately checking them off. I’ve done that. There are few things more satisfying than seeing a bunch of check marks at the end of the day. Each represents an accomplishment – some pleasant, some not so much. This is the problem with check marks. They don’t tell us how well we accomplished the task, so sometimes we can go through the motions to get the check. Exercise? Check… but I hardly broke a sweat today. Homework? Check… though I’m not sure I actually learned anything. That phone call I had to make? Check… even though I wasn’t fully present to the one on the other end of the line. Devotions? Prayer? Bible reading? Church? Check, check, check, check – but…

Today’s reading is part of Jesus’ seven woes directed at the scribes and Pharisees. It is tempting to dismiss them as addressed to someone else, but parts of me are not far from the behavior Jesus is describing here – doing everything to look clean or religious on the outside, but never really letting it sink in. I can sometimes just go through the motions to keep my “streak” of days in prayer, or doing my devotions, going. I didn’t really get much out of it, but I did it!

We can all go through the motions from time to time, and I am a firm believer that just showing up for our time with God can make a huge difference. God can speak in surprising ways, even when we are distracted. So keep doing your devotions, prayer, church attendance, etc. even when you don’t feel like it, and may just be going through the motions. But taken to an extreme, we can become people who are all about our spiritual “appearance” at the expense putting ourselves in the presence of God. We shouldn’t be just checking boxes, but using those tool to deepen our relationship with God in Jesus Christ.

Prayer: May my inner and outer lives reflect your love, O God. Amen.

Action: For the rest of the week take some time each day to be still before God. It may be uncomfortable but resist the temptation to read, speak, listen, or anything else. Just be there with God, as if you were sitting in a room with an old friend. Note how it feels to simply rest in God’s presence without performing.

Respond: Do you use to-do lists, or maybe an app for that? Answer by clicking “Leave a Comment” below.
If you are receiving this via email, click the title at the top of the email to take you to the devotion webpage where you can leave a comment.


About Joe Iovino

Christian, husband & father, Associate Pastor in Monument CO, guitar player, motorcyclist, Mets fan.
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